A title by Nick Kyrgios last week in the ATP 500 level Tokyo tournament, and a runner up by David Goffin in the same tournament has most likely narrowed the race for ATP World Tour finals spots to eight players seeking four remaining spots. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Milos Raonic have already secured their place in the 2016 World Tour Finals in London.
A Look at the 2016 ATP Race To London Prior to the Shanghai Masters
Likely to Qualify: Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal
Kei Nishikori sits at 5th in the race to London, while Rafael Nadal sits in 7th place. Nishikori suffered an injury in his home Tokyo tournament, but if he can heal up he should be able to string together enough points to qualify, even if it is not in his current 5th place position.
The schedule for Nishikori is currently Basel and then the Paris Masters, which offer 500, and 1000 ranking points respectively. Nishikori pulled out of Shanghai and won’t gain any points there, but he only needs to win a couple more matches this year to qualify.
Nadal is playing Shanghai this week, plus Basel and Paris. Presuming he doesn’t suffer any shock defeats, he should at least reach the Shanghai quarters, and is set to do the same in Basel and Paris, which will get him into the World Tour Finals. I see him finishing in the top 6, although passing Nishikori will be hard unless the Japanese #1 doesn’t win anything the rest of the year.
In The Top 8 but Could Lose their Spot: Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem
Gael Monfils, a semifinalist in Tokyo, made great strides towards locking down his spot; he’s currently 6th in the race, but Monfils has a history of inconsistency and injuries that could still put his position in doubt. He’s playing Shanghai, then Stockholm, and Paris presently. It’s a surprise he opted for the 250 in Stockholm, rather than the 500 level in Basel. That decision could cost him points compared to his rivals. Still, it’s been a career year for the Frenchman and I still believe he’ll qualify. He’s currently in a part of the bracket in Shanghai that includes World Tour Finals contender David Goffin, along with Juan Martin Del Potro.
Dominic Thiem has a ton of wins on tour this year (54), and he’s playing a home 500 in Vienna, and Paris. The Austrian has played a head scratching, and at times brutal schedule though, and it’s cost him dearly in terms of fitness and results. Thiem went just 1-2 on the Asian swing, and withdrew from Shanghai due to fitness concerns. A final in Metz helped him into the top 8 and he’s still quite capable of reaching the final or winning Vienna and likely securing his spot, but his form does not dictate momentum to qualify compared to the veterans chasing him.
The Contenders: Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic, David Goffin, and Nick Kyrgios
Presuming there are no alternate spots, these four players are most likely competing for the 8th and final World Tour Finals spot, as Thiem is the player most likely to drop from the top 8. Berdych is playing Shanghai, Vienna, and Paris, Cilic is playing Shanghai, Basel, and Paris, Goffin is playing the difficult schedule of Shanghai, Antwerp (a home tournament for the Belgian), Basel, and Paris, and Kyrgios is playing Shanghai, Basel, and Paris.
Berdych won a critical title in Shenzen to put himself in the 9th position, but he was of course hurt by missing the US Open, and he failed to reach the final in St. Petersburg and lost his first match in the Tokyo 500. The Czech has plenty of experience and is normally a presence in the top 8 but his form suggests he will likely just miss making the finals this year, and may be an alternate. I don’t think Berdych will be able to beat top 15 contenders in his remaining tournaments.
Cilic, Goffin, and Kyrgios are nearly 700 points behind Thiem, and even more behind Nadal and Monfils. They will need to capture 1 or more titles and post semis or better in the remaining Masters tournaments to truly contend. The veteran Cilic is perhaps best position as he could well make the Shanghai semis this week, and do the same in Basel and Paris. Goffin has a difficult draw in Shanghai and his loss in the Tokyo final likely precludes him qualifying, barring a miracle run in all four of his remaining ATP events. Kyrgios is the dark horse here,the big serving Aussie has the talent to make a run at this, but he’s far out and hasn’t been near as consistent as Thiem, Monfils, Nadal, or Cilic this year. In the end I think Cilic will overtake Thiem, and round out the qualifying field of Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Raonic, Nishikori, Nadal, and Monfils.